The Current

Polygamy is happening in Canada's Muslim community, but convictions are rare, says reporter

As some women in Canada’s Muslim community are speaking out against polygamous marriages in their community, a CBC reporter investigating the issue for The Fifth Estate says charges and convictions related to the practice are “extremely rare” in Canada.

The Fifth Estate spoke with several women affected by polygamous marriage

The Fifth Estate spoke with several women from the Greater Toronto Area who have been affected by polygamy. Zaib, a Toronto resident pictured here in an old photo, and whose last name the CBC has agreed to withhold, was shocked when her husband told her he had married a second wife. (Submitted by Zaib (last name withheld))
Listen15:33

Read Story Transcript

As some women in Canada's Muslim community are speaking out against polygamous marriages in their community, a CBC reporter says charges and convictions related to the practice are "extremely rare" in Canada.

"[The] law banning polygamy has been on the books for about 127 years," said the CBC's Habiba Nosheen, who has been investigating the issue for The Fifth Estate.  

However, only a few convictions have been handed down for the practice in Canada, she told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

In 2017, a judge found two B.C. men guilty of polygamy for marrying dozens of women. Winston Blackmore and James Oler were both sentenced to house arrest for their crimes.

"Those were only the third and the fourth conviction of polygamy in Canadian history," said Nosheen.

Some people are looking for second wives online. (CBC)

Some imams assisting with 2nd marriages

While polygamy is permitted according to the Qur'an, the Canadian Council of Imams says polygamous marriages are invalid because they go against Canadian law.

The CBC's Habiba Nosheen talks about the prevalence of polygamous marriages in Canada. 0:31

But The Fifth Estate found that some imams are willing to perform marriages for men who already have a wife, and many of these second marriages likely go unregistered. Nosheen said the practice persists partly because of online websites that facilitate it. 

One woman, Zaib, said her husband announced he had married a second wife in an unexpected phone call. The CBC has agreed to withhold her full name.

"I went into shock mode. I was in a state of denial, saying no, no, this can't be happening," she said.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Produced by Habiba Nosheen and Geoff Turner.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.